023/09/14 AM, Sharon OPC
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
Before I get into the meat of the sermon today, I want to read to you a famous little short story that helps to illustrate something about love. It’s called:
APPOINTMENT WITH LOVE
by S.L. Kisher
Six minutes to six, said the great round clock over the information booth in Grand Central Station. The tall young army lieutenant who had just come from the direction of the tracks lifted his sunburned face, and his eyes narrowed to note the exact time. His heart was pounding with a beat that shocked him because he could not control it. In six minutes he would see the woman who had filled such a special place in his life for the past thirteen months, the woman he had never seen, yet whose written words had been with him and sustained him unfailingly.
He placed himself as close as he could to the information booth, just beyond the ring of people besieging the clerks.
Lieutenant Blandford remembered one night in particular, the worst of the fighting, when his plane had been caught in the midst of a pack of Zeros. He had seen the grinning face of one of the enemy pilots.
In one of his letters he had confessed to her that he often felt fear, and only a few days before this battle, he had received her answer. “Of course you fear ... all brave men do. Didn't King David know fear? That’s why he wrote the Twenty-third Psalm. Next time you doubt yourself, I want you to hear my voice reciting to you: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me...” And he had remembered, he had heard her imagined voice, and it had renewed his strength and skill.
Now he was going to hear her real voice. Four minutes to six. His face grew sharp.
Under the immense, starred roof, people were walking fast, like threads of color being woven into a gray web. A girl passed close to him and Lieutenant Blandford started. She was wearing a red flower in her suit lapel, but it was a crimson sweet pea, not the little red rose they had agreed upon. Besides, this girl was too young, about eighteen, whereas Hollis Meynell had frankly told him she was thirty. “Well, what of it?” he had answered. “I'm thirty-two.” He was twenty-nine.
His mind went back to that book — the book the Lord Himself must have put into his hands out of the hundreds of army library books sent to the Florida training camp. Of Human Bondage, it was; and throughout the book were notes in a woman’s writing. He had always hated that writing-in habit, but these remarks were different. He had never believed that a woman could see into a man’s heart so tenderly, so understandingly. Her name was on the bookplate: Hollis Meynell. He had got hold of a New York City phone book and found her address. He had written, she had answered. Next day he had been shipped out but they had gone on writing.
For thirteen months, she had faithfully replied, and more than replied. When his letters did not arrive, she wrote anyway, and now he believed he loved her, and she loved him.
But she had refused all his pleas to send him her photograph. That seemed rather bad, of course. But she had explained: “If your feeling for me has any reality, any honest basis, what I look like won’t matter. Suppose I’m beautiful. I’d always be haunted by the feeling that you had been taking a chance on just that, and that kind of love would disgust me. Suppose I’m plain (and you must admit that this is more likely), then I’d always fear you were going on writing to me only because you were lonely and had no one else. No, don't ask for my picture. When you come to New York, you shall see me and then you shall make your decision. Remember, both of us are free to stop or to go on after that – whichever we choose..."
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.
One minute to six...
Then Lieutenant Blandford’s heart leaped higher than his plane had ever done.
A young woman was coming toward him. Her figure was long and slim, her blond hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears. Her eyes were blue flowers; her lips and chin had a gentle firmness. In her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.
He started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was wearing no rose, and as he moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips.
“Going my way, soldier?”
Uncontrollably, he made one step closer to her. Then he saw Hollis Meynell.
She was standing almost directly behind the girl, a woman well past forty, her graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump; her thick-ankled feet were thrust into low-heeled shoes. But she wore a red rose in the rumpled lapel of her brown coat.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. Blandford felt as though he were being split in two, so keen was his desire to follow the girl, yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own; and there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible; he could see that now. Her gray eyes had a warm, kindly twinkle.
Lieutenant Blandford did not hesitate. His fingers gripped the small, worn, blue leather copy of Of Human Bondage which was to identify him to her. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even rarer than love – a friendship for which he had been and must be ever grateful.
He squared his broad shoulders, saluted, and held the book out toward the woman, although even while he spoke he felt choked by the bitterness of his disappointment.
“I’m Lieutenant John Blandford, and you – you are Miss Meynell. I’m so glad you could meet me. May – may I take you to dinner?” The woman’s face broadened in a tolerant smile. “I don’t know what this is all about, son,” she answered. “That young lady in the green suit – the one who just went by – begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said that if you asked me to go out with you, I should tell you that she’s waiting for you in that big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of a test. I’ve got two boys with Uncle Sam myself, so I didn’t mind to oblige you.”
This little story illustrates a characteristic of true love that Paul describes in our text for today. Romans 5:7-8 says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
What the story, “Appointment with Love,” illustrates, and what this Bible text implies is that true, Biblical love is not something you fall into, like a mud puddle. “Oh, I’ve fallen in love and I can’t get up!”
It’s also not something you can fall out of, like an airplane. “Ahhhhhhh…I’ve fallen out of love with you!”
That thing that you fall into and fall out of is not love. That’s called, “infatuation.” Infatuation is basically self-centered emotion. Infatuation says, “Oh, you make me feel so wonderful inside! Oh, I need you! Oh, I want you! Oh, I’ve got to have you!” But then, when the feeling goes away, the person says, “I just don’t have any feelings for you any more. Someone else makes me feel wonderful inside now. Sorry, I’ve fallen out of love with you. I just don’t feel the same way about you any more. So sorry.”
True love is not at all like that. True love is not self-centered. True love is self-sacrificing. If love were really infatuation, I’ll guarantee that there’s not a one of us here that God would love. God is not infatuated with sinners! We don’t make God feel wonderful inside. God doesn’t desperately need us. God is holy, and God hates sin and sinners with a perfect and just hatred. Sin repels Him!
Sinners aren’t simply like that woman in our story, “well past forty, her graying hair tucked under a worn hat. And sinners aren’t only “more than plump,” with their “thick-ankled feet” “thrust into low-heeled shoes.”
No, sinners are much worse than that! Sinners are like filthy, smelly, rotting corpses, with no hat and no shoes! God is repelled by sinners!
But our text says that, in spite of the fact that we’re wretched, sinful human beings, and in spite of the fact that we’re not beautiful in God’s sight, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s not infatuation. That’s the amazing love of God! The true love of God, true, Biblical love, is a self-sacrificing love! Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to “demonstrate” that amazing love of God. Christ suffered the full penalty of God’s wrath and punishment for sin that we deserved because that was the very best way to demonstrate to us that He loved us, even while we were unlovely, vile sinners!
Let me ask you this: Would you be willing to suffer the full wrath and punishment of God that one of your enemies deserved? Would you be willing to suffer the death penalty in the place of someone who murdered your only child?
That’s what God did for us. Our sins crucified Jesus on the cross. It was while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us. That’s what true, Biblical love is like. That’s what God’s perfect love is like.
A lot of people are confused about this. They think that they have to somehow make themselves loveable to God in order for Him to love them. They think that they have to live a “good enough” life and do “good enough” works in order to make God like them enough to take them to Heaven. They think that they must love God first so that God will love them back.
But that’s totally backwards. The Bible says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And then later on, in I John 4:11 we read, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” And v. 19 adds, “We love because he first loved us.”
Our love for God and our love for others can only come about after God first loves us and fills us with His love.
But there’s one little word that I want you to pay very close attention to in our text: It’s the word, “us.” “God demonstrates his own love for us…Christ died for us…since God so loved us…he first loved us…”
It’s very important to know who the “us” is that’s being spoken of here. When Paul says, “us,” in our text, he’s not referring to everybody in the whole wide world. When Paul uses the word, “us,” in this context, he’s referring only to those who believe in and trust in Jesus Christ by faith. He’s referring to Christians. He’s talking about those who’ve been given faith to believe in Jesus Christ.
John 3:16-18 makes this clear: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
God’s love can be known only by believers who’ve been given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus Christ.
Millions of people in this world think that God loves everybody, including those who never come to faith. But without true faith, no one can come to know this amazing love of God that was demonstrated in the cross of Jesus Christ. Millions of people in this world don’t have the slightest clue as to what true love is all about because they haven’t experienced the love of God.
The only reason Christians know what true love is all about is because they know Jesus Christ. True, Biblical love is not something you fall into or fall out of. True, Biblical love is something that God places in your heart when He gives you faith to believe in Jesus Christ. And God demonstrates this love to you through the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Such true love is not something that you can ever experience unless you’re born again. Unbelievers can’t know this love of God. Unbelievers can’t love like this because true love comes from God.
That’s what the Bible teaches in I John 4:7-8, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
John says, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
That makes it clear that if a person has this true, Biblical love in his heart, that person is a born again Christian. Only born again Christians can truly love. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
John also says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
That makes it clear that if a person does not have this true, Biblical love in his heart, that means he doesn’t know God. To know God is to know true, Biblical love. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
I pray that if any of you here today have not yet experienced true, Biblical love, self-sacrificing love like the love which God demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ – I pray that God would open your heart to that love by the power of His Holy Spirit working in you. And I pray, as Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:17-19, “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”